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Archive for September, 2010

One Day, Two Events (2)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Book signing at Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, MI

I met Hank seven years ago at the Graham School, University of Chicago. We were attending the Basic Program—great books of the West. We moved on to take the Asian Classics when the four-year program was finished, and Hank’s wife Joyce joined us in this new program. They have been very supportive to my book since the beginning—coming to my first talk at the Printers Row Book Fair and invited me to talk to their respective “men’s” and “women’s” book groups. Recently, they also introduced me to talk at the “Kitchen Cabinet,” a social club in Barrington.

It was through them I met Sharon, Joyce’s cousin. Sharon attended one of my talks in the Chicago area. Afterward, she invited me to meet with her book group in Kalamazoo, MI and be her house guest. I readily agreed. That Thursday, Hank raced on the highway to “Kazoo” and we arrived at Sharon’s home shortly before 5:30 P.M., the start of the event. We rushed into Sharon’s car and headed toward the Kazoo Books, a local bookstore. Most of the women in the book group were already there when we walked in. We shook hands and sat around a table that was covered with food they had brought—salad, cheese, bread, fruit, pasta, cookies, cakes and various types of drinks. I was impressed that Gloria, owner of the bookstore, designated a room for such events and allowed people to bring in food and drinks.

 I chatted with the group, addressed their questions and listened to their comments. At 6:30, the event was open to public and more people joined us. We changed the setting and I stood in the front and gave a talk about my book and China’s Cultural Revolution, with visuals to help the audience have a better understanding. Many in the audience raised questions, and we had a very lively discussion—this was one of those events that I knew I connected with the audience.

Gloria invited everyone to have a piece of carrot cake at the end of my talk, and I joined her by passing a bag of crispy peanut candies from China. After book signing, a few women lingered to continue our conversation. It was well after 8 P.M. when we returned to Sharon’s house.

I felt most fortunate to have the generous support of friends and the genuine interest from many readers.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

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One Day, Two Events (1)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping 

Book Signing at Rotary Club in Deerfield, IL

During a recent Thursday, I gave two talks in two states, a record. The first one was a talk at a Rotary Club over lunch in Deerfield, IL; and the second, at KazooBooks to a book group and the public in Kalamazoo, MI. Despite the rush—I forgot about the one hour time difference between Illinois and Michigan and committed to start the 2nd event at 5:30 P.M. local time. But despite the rush, I enjoyed both events.

Deloris at the Deerfield Rotary Club invited me to speak at her club and introduced me to her fellow Rotarians.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Deloris had read my book before contacting me. She gave a detailed description of my book to the audience, along with her comments—a better job than I could ever do. I proceeded from there, using a few visuals to illustrate the stories covered in my book and the atrocities of China’s Cultural Revolution. Since I just received permission from my film director Susan Morgan Cooper to use photos of the documentary based on my book (production is scheduled to finish in early 2011), I eagerly shared images of three reenacted scenes that had been filmed recently in Los Angeles—images of Nainai, my grandmother, Father and me at six in the mud house we were forced to live in.

After the Q & A and a rushed book signing, I charged to the parking lot in front of our meeting place where my friends Joyce and Hank had been waiting. I was 15 minutes late, making our tight schedule more challenging to meet. “It’s 172 miles,” Joyce had sent me an email the day before, reminding me we need to get on the road no later than 1 P.M.  I threw my bag into the trunk of their car and settled in the back seat as soon as I could.

“Okay, ready to roll,” I said. I was very grateful that they generously offered me a ride from Deerfield to Kalamazoo, Michigan!  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit,

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Friends Passing

Friday, September 24th, 2010
Funeral flowers
Image by tim_d via Flickr


By:  Ellis Goodman

It is said that, if a man can count his true friends on one hand, he is a lucky man indeed.  Friendships secured in childhood often last a lifetime.  I feel fortunate that is my experience, even though one of my closest friends passed away at the age of 63. 

Of course throughout life, one develops other friendships – some of which are acquaintances and some which are deeper.  It is also a well-known superstition that bad news comes in threes, and that has been my experience these past few weeks.  Three of my “friends” have recently passed away.   

Jimmy was a strong character with an outgoing warm personality.  Cerebral Palsy in his childhood left him with a permanent limp, but that did not stop him enjoying the outdoors throughout his life.   He was a great tennis player and loved canoeing, kayaking and bicycle riding.  He had a warm, friendly smiling disposition that made him popular with everyone he met. 

He was a “hugger,” something I personally don’t take to, but which endeared him to others.  He was also an intellectual.  We had many conversations about Shakespeare, and he enjoyed debating the pros and cons of whether the Bard really wrote all those plays and sonnets.  Jimmy was also a talented musician.  He studied Piano at the Paris Conservatoire, and would have liked to turn professional but, even so, played in many established amateur groups.  Some of his performances were recorded.

Jimmy and his wife loved to travel, which they did extensively throughout North America and Europe.  He spoke fluent French, and their choice was to stay at small inns and bed and breakfasts where he could interact with the owners and local people.  An avid reader, theatre buff, and a music aficionado throughout his life, he will be missed by many, including me.

My wife and I were shocked and saddened to hear that our friend Mo had passed away suddenly last week.  Mo was Canadian and could be described as a “ladies man” – very handsome with a shock of silver fair hair, blue eyes, an engaging smile, and a warm personality.  The ladies always adored him.  Before retiring, he had been Canadian national sales manager for a Japanese electronics and appliance company.  When one met Mo, you knew immediately he was a great salesman.  He had the ability to ask sincere questions and expressed interest in your life.  Always immaculately dressed, he was the total gentlemen – the sort of personality that came out of the 60s and 70s, but seems to be missing in today’s hectic corporate world.

I suppose Norman was more of an acquaintance than a friend.  But nevertheless, I knew him for over 30 years.  He lived in Bermuda, so we didn’t see each other very often.  He was the epitome of the well-bred, well-spoken Englishman, although he spent nearly all of his life living outside of the UK – mainly in South Africa and for the past 30+ years in Bermuda.

He had a career in wealth management before that term became popular and even over-used, and his wit and charm was ideal in developing and maintaining client relationships.  When I first knew him, he was married to an airline stewardess, who I didn’t care for too much.  I think that was his second marriage, and it didn’t last too long.  He subsequently married a delightful girl, who he affectionately called “Jugs,” based upon her rather large body appendages.  Witty, charming, and a great entertainer, he was famous for his Sunday morning “Bloody Mary” brunches in which I participated in quite a few.  These were jolly and amusing events that took place around his pool in sunny Bermuda, and got jollier and more amusing as the day went on.  Brunch could go on for four or five hours, and his expertise in creating the perfect “Bloody Mary” was well-known.  Norman passed away suddenly while on vacation in the South of France.  He was a classy guy, and I think on reflection if he had had the choice, ending his days in the luxury of the French Riviera, could well have been his first choice.

As one gets older, one appreciates the diverse characters and personalities one meets during a lifetime, and their passing leaves an unfillable void.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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Unclaimed Genealogy

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Unclaimed Genealogy

by Nancy Werking Poling

author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman

and Out of the Pumpkin Shell

To prevent my buying anything that would clutter our small temporary apartment in Evanston, I took a needs list to garage sales: a blanket, a blow dryer, kitchen knives, a cooking pan, a mixer, and a big mirror.

Yesterday I came close to forsaking my common-sense approach at an estate sale. The deceased had an elephant collection, most pieces priced two dollars and under, representing numerous countries. Though I’ve never collected elephants, these intrigued me. But I was more tempted by two old photographs, both in excellent condition, with stickers on the back of the frames identifying the individuals. One was of an extended family, taken in the Netherlands in the late1800s. The men wore uniforms with a row of buttons on each side of the jacket that grew farther apart at the shoulders; the women had on long dark dresses and lace caps. The second picture was of a matron wearing the same kind of cap. (Had I known I was going to write about them, I would have studied the photos more carefully.)

The realization that they were going outside the family, that no descendents wanted them, saddened me. I expressed my concern to the person collecting money. She explained that the woman whose estate it was had never married and had but one living relative: a niece who’d had no children and needed the money for dialysis treatments. Like a dead-end road, the linage has ended, with no one left to care who the people in the picture are.

I came home and told my husband about my worries. He reminded me we’d sold our wedding pictures at the public auction we held before moving from a small Pennsylvania farm to California. We likely included them by accident in one of the many boxes of books we were throwing together at the last minute. Either the box has never been unpacked (at least not by anyone who knew us) or the pictures, removed from their album, now hang framed in antique shops in southern Pennsylvania—assuming wedding pictures from 1963 would now be considered antiques.

My purchases at the estate sale included a mixer and space-saving closet hangers. Oh, and I paid a dime for a deck of Rook cards. I grew up in a family that considered standard playing cards sinful. For reasons never clear to me, Rook, a card game with numbers one to fourteen in four colors, was acceptable. From the time I was big enough to manage a handful of cards, I joined in playing Rook with my parents and grandparents.

My grandfather was a jovial man whom my grandmother seemed to think needed a frequent “Now, Chester…” to keep him in line. Had he been a gambling man he probably would have spent too much time in some back parlor playing poker. Instead, he became an enthusiastic Rook player. I can still picture him thumping down the Rook on an opponent’s high card. Laugh—my how he laughed!

So, while I resisted trying to rescue someone else’s heritage at the estate sale, I was at least able to affirm my own.

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At the NFPW’s Conference

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Anupy and me at book signing

I rushed to the Union League Club in downtown Chicago on Saturday, 8/28 to be on the panel Book It! Getting Your Book Published at the National Federation of Press Women’s Conference (NFPW).  Other panelists included Yoland Joe (author), Doug Seibold (publisher) and Anupy Singla (author). Jessica Tobacman, a journalist, was the moderator.  Our group had given a panel on similar topic before and Suzanne Hanney, Vice President of NFPW, was in the audience. She found the panel informative and invited us all to NFPW’s conference in Chicago.

Different from before, the audience were all women this time—writers of articles and books. We addressed issues related to publish a book, from finding an agent, selecting an editor, negotiating a contract to releasing e-book, and of course, writing. The Q & A session was quite lively as well.

“I want to let you know I really enjoyed reading your book,” Suzanne miraculously appeared in front of me as soon the panel was over. “Your writing is precise and your story very compelling,” she said, looking intensely at me. I barely had enough time to thank her before she took leave for another room.  I knew she had a lot to cover at the Conference and very much appreciated her taking time to stop by.

Anupy and I sat side by side at the book signing session in another room after the panel. There were about ten authors from other panels in the room. We settled in our designated seats and chatted whenever we had a chance. We shared our experiences in writing and exchanged our books—hers was an Indian cookbook. I always enjoyed Indian food, but never ventured to cook Indian dish at home. Anupy bookmarked one of her favorite recipes—red bean in slow cooker. Red bean, whichever way it was cooked, was and is my all time favorite. “Start with this,” she said. “It’s easy to cook and is delicious!”

We didn’t have a chance to talk with each other last time and were very happy to have this chance to get better acquainted. We clicked right away and agreed to get together for lunch or dinner soon.

It was connection such as this, with other panelists, writers, and readers that I found these events most beneficial and inspiring.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China,,

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911 Call

Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Chicago (ILL) River North, West Chicago Ave, C...

Image by Vincent Desjardins via Flickr


By:  Ellis Goodman

My wife and I were having dinner at a local restaurant the other night.  It was a balmy evening so we were eating at a table on the sidewalk.  The restaurant and the street generally were not busy, and there was very little street traffic.  One of those calm, peaceful September moon-lit evenings.

From a distance, we suddenly heard the wail of a fire truck or ambulance, and this gradually got louder until we could see the vehicles approaching on the other side of the street.  One always feels a little apprehensive when public safety vehicles appear, as you expect to see an accident, fire, or other disturbance. We could see nothing on our quiet street, but then to our surprise, the vehicle stopped right opposite our restaurant in the middle of the road (although they could have pulled around and parked right outside).  Four men descended from the fire truck dressed in black uniforms, and walked at a reasonably leisurely pace across the street and into the restaurant.  I noticed that they were all wearing bright blue rubber gloves.  They were immediately followed by two more similarly dressed personnel from the ambulance that had pulled up behind the fire truck.  I tried to look into the restaurant but could see nothing.  There was certainly no smoke or fire and the guests eating inside were not leaving.

Within a minute or two, we heard a further siren and a police car approached and parked about 100 yards from our location right across the street, blocking traffic completely.  One policeman got out of the car and started diverting traffic such as it was, and another crossed the street and entered the restaurant. 

My curiosity now got the better of me, and so I entered the doorway to see what the commotion was all about.  Apparently an elderly man had stumbled getting up from his table and fallen, giving himself a small gash on his left cheekbone.  He was surrounded by the various public safety personnel and was holding a large icepack against his face.  One of the public safety people and the policeman were busy taking notes of the incident.  They probably offered him the opportunity of going to the hospital, but he declined and eventually the fire truck people, ambulance people, and finally the police withdrew.

I suppose there is a protocol for these sorts of incidents, but I was struck as to how many people, vehicles, and disruption was involved to attend upon a customer in the restaurant who had unfortunately suffered a minor accident.  Is this the law?  Is it normal protocol for an accident inside a restaurant?  Or is everybody following a procedure in order to avoid potential litigation?

Anyway, the commotion such as it was disturbed a peaceful evening and a really enjoyable meal, but everyone returned to their tables and gradually calm descended.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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A Nice Treat (2)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

By Jian Ping

Mary and me at Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand last December

Mary drove Karen and me to Suzie’s, a book club member who was hosting the event starting at 10 A.M. The contemporary house was open and bright, with its backyard facing another lake. Many members had arrived, and among them, two brought their adult daughters. I soon learned several of them had visited China and one had an adopted granddaughter from China. Since they had already read my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, I proceeded to show them some images of the Cultural Revolution and invited them to ask questions at any time. We had a lively discussion. Eventually, Karen had to cut in and reminded everyone that it was a quarter to noon and we needed to wrap up. I signed copies of Mulberry Child for the members and continued to chat with a few until Karen and Mary urged me to leave—we planned to grab a few sandwiches on our way back and have lunch over the lake. We didn’t have much time left since I wanted to take the 3 P.M. Amtrak train back to Chicago.

I was impressed that Karen, at 80, walked down the slope to the boat with us without any difficulties. Mary skillfully steered the boat out of the docking area and cruised at leisure around the lake. A young man was waterskiing in the middle of the lake, gracefully jumping and turning at high speed, and another man was riding a jet ski, leaving waves of splashes behind him. Other than that, no one else was on the water.

“School is still off,” Mary said. “I’m surprised not many people are out on the lake.”

I was glad the lake was not crowded with people and boats. The sun was shining, yet on the water, it felt cool. A gentle breeze created small ripples on the surface of the water, making it sparkle as if beckoning to us. It dawned on me why so many people preferred to have a second home in the country. The beauty of nature and the peace of the surroundings were so soothing and serene.

What a wonderful treat I had—receiving the warm hospitality from Mary’s parents, indulging in the friendship of my friend, and making connections with my readers! 

Thank you! Thank you all!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry China: A Memoir of China. Visit,

A Nice Treat (1)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

By Jian Ping

Beaver Lake, WI

I was invited to talk to a women’s book group in Hartland, a suburb of Milwaukee by Karen, my friend Mary’s mother. Last Wednesday, Mary took time off from work and gave me a ride to her parents’ home. As we got closer, she took a scenic drive and showed me Beaver Lake—her parents’ home is located along its shore. I could see the glistening of water through the thicket of trees between the lake and the road. Beaver Lake, on which Mary had spent endless hours cruising and water skiing, appeared larger than I expected.  

Karen came to the door to meet us. She wore a burgundy silk top and her hair was tied back with a matching red ribbon. She looked much younger than her age. Two of Mary’s relatives, Peggy and Ross, were there as well. We chatted over a table of veggies, cheese and crackers in the living room. I soon learned that one of Peggy’s sons and daughter-in-law were published writers. Later, Mary’s father Bill returned home from his golf outing, declaring his winning of $11 for the day. “Better than losing 50 bucks,” he said, laughing. He took us to his clubhouse along Beaver Lake for dinner, and I enjoyed a hearty meal of lamb chops, my favorite, and lots of hearty laughter over our conversation—it was home away from home for me, and later, I joked with Mary to ask her mother to adopt me as her Chinese daughter.   

Soon after we came back to the house, Karen and Bill retired for the night. Mary and I sat in the screened porch and read into the night. All I could hear was the singing of cicadas. No squeaking of speeding tires or the hamming of traffic. As I commented to Mary how quiet and peaceful it felt, I heard the ruffling of the bushes next to the window. Mary smiled, saying it must be their neighbor’s dog. Sure enough, a thin, furry face of brown and white popped up above the screen, but disappeared after a quick peep. “He will be back for a biscuit in the morning,” Mary said.

I sat alone in the dark for half an hour after Mary went to bed. The flood light lit the backyard, highlighting the green lawn and the leafy bushes. I swung back and forth on the cushioned, comfortable chair, savoring the undisturbed beauty of the night.

Early in the morning, I sneaked out of the house for a run. The sun was about to rise and the morning air felt fresh and cool. I followed a paved trail and ran around a nearby newly developed subdivision—all enormously large houses, some still under construction, as if there was a competition for size. When I made my way back 50 minutes later, I ran directly to the lake behind the house and was pleasantly surprised to find the water warm. I decided to get into my swimsuit and take a dip into the lake.

I ran into Mary in the hallway when I entered the house. “Join me for a swim,” I said, feeling excited by my discovery. 

Mary smiled, saying she’d rather swim later when the sun would be high and the water “really warm.” I couldn’t resist the allure of the water and quickly changed into my swimsuit. “Please come get me if I’m not back in an hour,” I told Mary.

Beaver Lake seemed to be asleep. Nearly every house along the lake had a private access to the water, complete with a boat and a dock. But there was not a single human being around. I jumped into the shallow water and swam toward the middle of the lake. Through my goggles, I could see swarms of small fish dodge from my intrusion and disappear into various vegetations at the bottom. As I picked up speed, my body warmed up and got used to the water temperature. I selected two boats across the lake as my benchmarks and swam back and forth, a long stretch. It was so wonderful to press forward or backward without worrying about hitting the edge of a swimming pool or flipping around every half a minute or so.  As I was about to make another round, I heard Mary calling me from the shore. I could hardly believe an hour had passed so quickly.

Karen was sitting at the breakfast table when I came down after a nice shower. “It’s only 65 degrees out there,” she said. “Don’t you feel cold?”

“Not at all,” I said enthusiastically. “It’s so beautiful and lovely!”

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit and

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